List of Characters
Duke Senior—An exiled Duke, living in banishment in the Forest of Arden.
Duke Frederick—Duke Senior's brother; usurper of his dukedom.
Amiens—A courtier and singer who attends Duke Senior in exile.
First and Second Lords—Courtiers who attend Duke Senior in exile.
Jaques—A melancholy philosopher who resides with the exiled Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden.
Le Beau—A foppish courtier attending Duke Frederick.
Charles—A wrestler at the court of Duke Frederick.
Oliver—Eldest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys and heir to his fathers estate.
Jaques de Boys—The middle son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys.
Orlando—Youngestson of the late Sir Rowland de Boys who falls in love with Rosalind.
Adam—A loyal, elderly servant in the household of the late Sir Rowland de Boys who accompanies Orlando to the Forest of Arden.
Dennis—Another servant in the household of the late Sir Rowland de Boys.
Touchstone—A clown at the court of Duke Frederick who accompanies Rosalind and Celia into exile.
Sir Oliver Martext—A clergyman.
Corin—An old shepherd who lives near the Forest of Arden. Silvius-A young, lovelorn shepherd.
William—A simpleminded young man.
Hymen—The god of marriage.
Rosalind—Daughter of the banished Duke Senior who falls in love with...
(The entire section is 232 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Rosalind (ROHZ-eh-lihnd), who is disguised as Ganymede (GAN-eh-meed) in the forest scenes, the daughter of the banished Duke Senior. A witty, self-possessed young woman, she accepts whatever fortune brings, be it love or exile, with gaiety and good sense. She is amused by the ironic situations arising from her disguise as a youth, and she wryly recognizes the humorous aspects of her growing love for Orlando, whose passion she pretends to be curing. Her central place in the lives of her companions is epitomized in the final scene, in which she sorts out the tangled skeins of romance and, with Orlando, joins three other couples before Hymen, the god of marriage.
Orlando (ohr-LAN-doh), the youngest son of Sir Rowland de Boys, the late ally of Rosalind’s father. Although his elder brother mistreats him and neglects his education, he reveals his gentle birth in his manner and appearance. His love for Rosalind provokes extravagantly romantic gestures, but the deeper feeling of which he is capable is evident in his concern for his faithful old servant Adam, as well as in his fidelity to his sweetheart.
Celia (SEE-lee-uh), Rosalind’s gentle cousin, who refuses to let her depart alone for the Forest of Arden. She, too, is gay and witty, ready to...
(The entire section is 771 words.)
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Note on the Character Analysis
Note: As You Like It is a formulaic comedy in which love and good must ultimately triumph. As such, it is filled with stock character types. While each of the play's main characters is distinct and none, save the least important (Charles the wrestler), is purely one-dimensional, the figures that appear on stage in As You Like It are not complex in the sense that Shakespeare's Hamlet or Lady Macbeth is complex. The two exceptions are Rosalind and Jaques, the poles of the play's "optimism/pessimism" opposition.
(The entire section is 87 words.)
Celia (Character Analysis)
Celia is the daughter of Duke Frederick and lives at the palace. After her father ousts Duke Senior, Duke Senior's daughter Rosalind, Celia's cousin, comes to live with her, and the two seem to be very close. They are like two schoolgirls exchanging witticisms about all they observe in their somewhat sheltered world. Celia takes an active part in the witty exchanges with Le Beau, in which the two girls and Touchstone engage in endless wordplay. She, along with her cousin, tries to convince Orlando that he will be injured if he wrestles Charles, and during the wrestling match, Celia encourages him. After the match, Celia and Rosalind pun on wrestling terms like "fall" and "throw," using these terms in the language of love to discuss Rosalind's infatuation with Orlando. Celia is excited for her cousin, but much of her energy at Duke Frederick's court is siphoned into distancing herself from her father's actions, most noticeably his banishment of Orlando after the wrestling match.
When Duke Frederick suddenly demands that Rosalind leave his household, Celia does not hesitate; she decides to share Rosalind's fate and travel with her to the Forest of Arden. The two adopt disguises because traveling in the sometimes violent Elizabethan underworld was a dangerous undertaking for two women. Celia assumes the persona of a woman being escorted by "Ganymede," Rosalind's male persona, significant since Celia is the less dominant of the two women. It is also...
(The entire section is 374 words.)
Frederick (Character Analysis)
Duke Frederick is the younger brother of Duke Senior and has somehow gained enough power to banish him from the court. He plunders the estates of those lords who have accompanied Duke Senior into exile. Duke Frederick seems to be acting capriciously and arbitrarily when he banishes Rosalind, but her banishment probably stems from the animosity that exists between himself and Duke Senior. She is, after all, Duke Senior's daughter, and Duke Frederick has only taken her in to appease his own daughter Celia. It may also be conjectured that he has witnessed or heard reports of Rosalind's attraction to Orlando and her gift of a necklace to him and is upset with her for befriending the son of Sir Rowland de Boys, his avowed enemy. Again, this probably stems from the quarrel between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior, the latter having had a great affection for Sir Rowland. Duke Frederick has already banished Orlando for his paternity and will eventually banish Oliver for the same reason, after Oliver has failed to produce and punish Orlando in accordance with Duke Frederick's desires. Duke Frederick becomes alarmed at the popularity enjoyed by his older brother in the forest, and he sets out to remove Duke Senior and his followers by force. He is dissuaded from this purpose and is miraculously converted to the contemplative life by a religious man in the Forest of Arden.
The rupture in the relationship between Duke Frederick and Duke Senior parallels that of Oliver...
(The entire section is 346 words.)
Jaques (Character Analysis)
A lord attending the banished Duke Senior, Jaques seems less enthusiastic about the natural simplicity of Arden as the other characters there, but he does not entirely dampen their enthusiasm. Rather, Duke Senior and his followers are amused by his pessimism about an environment which they celebrate as basic and unflattering, an environment which allows them to be themselves. For example, they are highly amused when Jaques empathizes with the deer wounded by one of them, moaning and weeping for the pain of the deer, the killing of which is seen by Duke Senior and his followers as sad but necessary for survival and part of the correct order of things. Jaques's identification with the deer is illustrative of the alternative perspective he provides throughout the play.
The alternative perspective Jaques provides allows the audience to see the duplicitousness that invades even the Forest of Arden. He accuses Duke Senior and his followers of having usurped the claim that the deer have to the forest as its natural inhabitants. Although Duke Senior regrets having to gore them, he does not see, as Jaques does, that his dominance over the deer is similar to the law of "right by power" Duke Senior thinks he has escaped by fleeing the court and taking refuge in the forest. Jaques also sees through Touchstone's relationship with Audrey. If Touchstone thinks he can feign affection for Audrey and hide ''amongst the rest of the country copulatives," (V.iv.55-6) Jaques...
(The entire section is 483 words.)
Oliver (Character Analysis)
Oliver is Orlando's older brother and takes over the responsibility of raising him. He so dislikes Orlando that when the brothers quarrel, Oliver strikes Orlando and then orders him out of the house. Oliver even goes so far as to assure Duke Frederick that he hates Orlando as much as the duke does, knowing full well that the duke intends to apprehend him and punish him.
As the eldest son of Sir Rowland de boys, Oliver has inherited the entire estate. The play never explains why he elects to send the second brother, Jaques, off to school but neglects the education of Orlando. Perhaps, as some critics have suggested, he is extremely envious of his younger brother's talent, generosity, and aristocratic impulses and wishes to be rid of Orlando so that he might appear in a better light without competition from his younger sibling. This explanation of Oliver's behavior must remain a matter of conjecture only. It is likely, though, that Shakespeare is using Oliver, as he uses Duke Frederick, to emphasize the social upheaval that results when brothers fight. Like Duke Frederick, Oliver has a sudden, almost unbelievable change of heart toward his brother. Since social order is symbolically restored only when brothers reconcile, it may sometimes be necessary for Shakespeare to effect this reconciliation even if it is sometimes unbelievable within the plot. In As You Like It, bringing the feuding brothers together again takes precedence over...
(The entire section is 361 words.)
Orlando (Character Analysis)
Orlando is the youngest son of the deceased Sir Rowland de Boys and a brother to Oliver. He resents the harsh treatment he receives at Oliver's hands and complains that Oliver neglects to educate him. Orlando feels that he is being ''kept'' like the livestock. He is fed and he grows physically but not intellectually or socially. Despite this neglect, Orlando's talents and his aristocratic nature reveal themselves. Although there is no mention of Orlando having had formal training in the sport of wrestling, he defeats someone who makes his living wrestling. Having seen the match, Rosalind becomes attracted to Orlando, and gives him her necklace.
After escaping to the Forest of Arden, Orlando encounters Rosalind, who is posing as Ganymede. Again, although he has not been taught to write formal verse, Orlando's instinct is to write poetry to Rosalind and express his feelings for her. According to Rosalind and Touchstone, the verse is stiff and halting, yet Orlando's inclination to turn to poetry as an emotive outlet attests to his aristocratic nature. Thinking that Ganymede (Rosalind) is a young man knowledgeable about the relationships between men and women, Orlando allows himself to be educated in the finer points of courtship.
In a comical scene, Jaques and Orlando meet as strangers and speak to each other according to polite convention. Each tells the other that he would rather be alone, and they agree that they should meet less often. The...
(The entire section is 564 words.)
Rosalind (Character Analysis)
Rosalind is Celia's cousin and daughter to Duke Senior. When her father is banished by Celia's father, Duke Frederick, Rosalind lives with Celia until Duke Frederick banishes her, too. She adopts a male disguise as a measure of security for her journey with Celia and Touchstone to the Forest of Arden. She adopts the name ''Ganymede," a telling name since, in Greek mythology, Ganymede was an androgynous youth raped by Zeus. When she arrives in Arden, Rosalind keeps her male disguise even though she is now safe and has no reason to do so.
When Celia discovers Orlando's poetry to Rosalind marring the tree trunks, she informs Rosalind of the author's identity. Initially, it seems as though Rosalind hangs onto her disguise in order to have some fun with Orlando. As the play progresses, Rosalind realizes that her male disguise gives her a certain power that she does not have as a woman. She is able to manipulate Orlando and extract from him his deepest secrets concerning her. Disguised as a man, she has power over other characters too. She is pursued by Phebe and can intervene in her relationship with Silvius.
Like her father, Duke Senior, Rosalind is a dominant presence in the play. She mediates many of the contradictions posed by the play. For example, Orlando wants to be a student of the formal patterns of courtship, but this desire is out of place in Arden where conventions are unimportant. Rosalind teaches him that, in romantic love,...
(The entire section is 699 words.)
Touchstone (Character Analysis)
Touchstone is a clown, or fool, in Duke Frederick's household. He may not be a vigorous male character, but he is a man nonetheless, and Celia and Rosalind decide to take him along as an extra measure of security on their journey to the Forest of Arden. When he arrives in the forest he finds that his familiarity with the language and customs of the court impress the simple shepherds and goatherds, so he uses this advantage to further his lustful designs on Audrey and marry her in what is typically described as a travesty of romantic love and marriage.
The Elizabethan term "clown" could be applied to any simple yokel. The term ''fool" referred to a court jester often wearing motley, a kind of multi-colored and outlandish attire. Elizabethan fools were very often "naturals," simple unassuming idiots who amused the courtiers with their naiveté or misunderstanding. In Shakespeare's plays, fools arguably function as either the conscience of some basically noble but misled character (for example, in King Lear) or as a device to deflate and expose the pomposity of characters who overstep their proper positions (for example, in Twelfth Night). Additionally, Shakespeare's fools amuse with their convoluted logic and witty plays on words. In As You Like It, Touchstone, although he delights with his wit, serves a somewhat different purpose.
(The entire section is 464 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Adam is the faithful, old servant of Sir Rowland de Boys, father to Oliver and Orlando. When Sir Rowland dies, Adam remains as a servant to the household which is now governed by the elder Oliver. He recognizes a certain inherent nobility in Orlando and sympathizes with the younger brother in his complaints against Oliver for neglecting his education and breeding. Adam is ill-treated by Oliver, and after the two brothers quarrel and physically struggle, he sides with Orlando and casts his fortune with him. He gives Orlando all of the money he has managed to save and travels with him to the Forest of Arden. In a society like Elizabethan England with rigid class distinctions, Adam represents the ideal of service, one who is motivated by loyalty and affection rather than greed and ambition. When Jaques, the pessimistic courtier in attendance upon the exiled Duke Senior, utters his fatalistic "Seven Ages of Man" speech (II.vii.139-66), concluding with a description of old age as isolated dependence, Orlando enters carrying Adam. Orlando defiantly protects the servant who has given everything to him, and the mutual generosity and dependence between Orlando and Adam contradicts the dismal picture drawn by Jaques's speech.
Amiens is one of the lords in attendance upon Duke Senior in the Forest of Arden. He is not in servitude to Duke Senior; he has...
(The entire section is 2468 words.)